Trump in Historical Context
The conventional wisdom is that Trump’s approach to foreign policy marks a real departure from that of his predecessors in terms of partisanship, disregard for allies, isolationist/nationalist tendencies and populist predilections. We will examine the populism of Andrew Jackson, the nativism and isolationism of Republican administrations in the 1920s and then in the 1930s during FDR’s Presidency, the bitter partisanship of the latter years of the Truman Presidency over the Korean War, the “loss” of China and the threat of communism inside and outside the U.S. We will compare the challenges that Presidents Nixon, Carter and Obama perceived in managing U.S. influence and military-economic power that they understood to be in relative decline. Finally, we will assess where Trump’s foreign policy is headed. Is it becoming more mainstream in contemporary historic terms or is the first year a precursor to a revolutionary approach? What key factors will shape the foreign policy outlook of the remainder of the Trump Presidency?
Ken Hillas retired as a Senior Foreign Service Officer in 2013. He served in multiple posts overseas and as a Professor at the National War College. He has served on the Board of the University of Maine’s School of Policy and International Affairs and is currently adjunct professor of global politics and U.S. foreign policy at the University.
From The Atlantic, April 2017, “The Brilliant Incoherence of Trump’s Foreign Policy,” by Stephen Sestanovich
From Foreign Affairs (March April 2017), “The Jacksonian Revolt,” by Walter Russell Mead
From Foreign Affairs, Vol 95, No. 1 (Jan/Feb 2016), “When Congress Gets Mad” by Steven Casey, pp. 76-84, Council on Foreign Relations.
Feb 15: What Are the Lessons of Past Presidencies? How Does the Trump Presidency Compare to Modern Predecessors? What Constrains the President?
From The Wall Street Journal, July 21, 2017, “What Truman Can Teach Trump,” by Walter Russell Mead (This article may be available digitally through through the Blue Hill Library. It is not available online without a subscription to the Wall Street Journal.)
From Foreign Affairs (Sept/Oct 2018), “The Unconstrained Presidency,” by James Goldgeier and Elizabeth Saunders From Foreign Affairs (Oct 1971), “The Instruments of American Foreign Policy,” by Charles Yost
From Foreign Affairs (Dec 1991), “The Presidency and Foreign Policy,” by Stephen Ambrose
From Foreign Policy (May 29, 2018), “Trump’s Kaiser Wilhelm Approach to Diplomacy,” by Jeremi Suri
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